A GOP Majority in Senate Would Still Need Democratic Votes

Carlos Vera, Staff Writer

With more and more predictions of a GOP takeover in the Senate this November, the focus has now turned on how the political dynamics in the upper chamber could change. Many Republicans are claiming that a GOP majority in the Senate would allow them to pass any Republican bills without Democrats being able to do much about it; some going as far to say that they at last would have the votes to repeal Obamacare. Yet that could be not be farther from the truth.  Even if the GOP wins the majority in the Senate, it would leave them with a slim majority. This in turns means that they would have to lobby conservative Democrats such as Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Sen. Joe Manhin (D-WE) to pass anything. 

At the present moment, the Senate is composed of 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans. If the predictions of number whizzes such as Nate Silver turn out to be true, the GOP could win by a slim majority of 51-49 or even with 52-48. While the net gain in seats would result in a Republican majority, it would still not be enough to break a filibuster. Under current Senate procedures, 60 votes are needed to break a filibuster. Consequently, a GOP Senate may look quite similar to how the Senate has been operating under current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the past four years. Even though Democrats hold the majority in the Senate, they have had to rely on moderate Republicans to pass their bills by compromising. The GOP would have to follow the same strategy if they wish to pass any bills in the Senate. In an interview, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) told Politico, “It’s very hard to get 60 votes if you don’t compromise, and so this notion that they’re going to be able to exact this right-wing agenda? That’s fantasyland.” The bluntness of the centrist Senator is important because in a GOP Senate, she would become one of the central swing votes Republicans would need.

There, however, lies perks with having a majority in the Senate. A GOP Senate would become a major irritant to the President and his agenda. With a majority, they could block or delay any of the President’s judicial, cabinet, or executive nominees. Yet, Republican priorities, such as repealing Obamacare, would not be in their reach. In sum, a GOP senate would not spell doom for the President or Democrats, but could lead to more of the same-old Washington gridlock people have become accustomed to seeing.

Carlos Vera is a Staff Writer at Latino Giant. Originally from Colombia, Carlos grew up in Southern California and has served in the Army Reserves since 2011. He is a junior at American University, pursuing a degree in Political Science.  He is currently studying abroad in Brussels where is he is a Legislative Intern at the European Parliament. He is passionate about the intersection between policy, advocacy and community development as it pertains to Latinos in United States.